PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

Talking to Your Teen about Sensitive Issues

Posted on May 11, 2011

As your teen becomes more independent and increasingly ventures out into the big, wide world, what’s the best way to make sure he or she stays safe? There’s one simple but invaluable step parents can take – talk regularly with your teen. Research shows that teens who talk to their parents about difficult issues such as alcohol, drugs and other risks, make safer choices. Although talking about sensitive topics with your teen is easier if you started these types of conversations when your child was young, it’s never too late to begin the dialog.

 Top 5 tips for easing into conversation with your teen:

  1. Initiate good conversations. Bring up a news story at dinner, surf a website or read a young adult book together, to get the conversation going. If a TV show you are watching brings up a sensitive topic, ask your teen what he or she knows about the subject and if he or she has any questions.
  2. Create an open environment. Teenagers are constantly bombarded with images and messages from the Internet, television, movies and magazines. Let your teen know that they can ask you anything. When your teen asks about a particular topic, find out what they really want to know. This will help you give the correct answer without overwhelming him or her with too much information.
  3. Share your own values. Don’t assume that your teen understands your family values just because you share a home. Clearly communicate what you believe in and explain why you have the values you do.
  4. Listen to your child. If you really listen and give your teen your undivided attention, he or she will feel more comfortable coming to you with a question and talking to you.
  5.  Be honest. Whatever your child’s age, he or she deserves honest answers – this strengthens his or her trust in you. Remember that the most difficult questions also give you a chance to communicate your values. 

Although talking about tough issues can seem daunting, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to make sure your teen knows you are available to help when he or she needs you. The facts and types of conversations are less important than your teens’ perception that you there for them. 

Health and Wellness Resources for Your Teen and Preteen

Looking for reliable health information for your preteen or teen or to help you start a conversation with them? PAMF also has a range of trusted health resources for preteens and teens:

  •  “We’re Talking” teen website for young adults 13 and up and “We’re Talking, Too” preteen website for children ages 9 to 12 provide medically accurate information on all aspects of your preteen’s and teen’s physical and emotional health.
  •  WAY2GO! – our award-winning, online and mobile teen health program uses your teenager’s favorite communication method, a cell phone, to motivate them to develop lifelong healthy habits. This engaging tool lets teenagers take a confidential, online wellness assessment and then helps them develop a personal wellness plan that includes activity reminders and health tips delivered through text messaging.

This blog post is contributed by Nancy Brown, Ph.D.,  a nationally-recognized health educator and adolescent development expert at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF).